Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category
A placeholder just for today.
Yesterday morning I had a lovely long chat with Jon Lavin in the UK. We chit-chatted for a long time, covering such matters as caring for ourselves, about being compassionate towards the self, and much more besides.
Then in stark contrast, around noon Jean and I went over to “Runaway Tractors” to collect our tractor that had been in for a service.
The afternoon brought along another great conversation with John Hurlburt, he of the highly-appreciated Human arrogance essay last Thursday. That brought forth a whole bundle of ideas to write about.
The talks with Jon and John inspired a wonderful set of essays in my mind - BUT!
But by the time I sat down in front of the PC to write today’s post, I had simply run out of time to write something of value. So I’m cheating, well sort of, by reposting something from a little over a year ago. Hope it’s fresh to your eyes and that you enjoy it.
Returning to Nature
The power of serendipity!
Why the choice of this sub-heading? Well, just because a number of quite separate articles and essays have come together to offer a powerful, cohesive argument for reconsidering the role of Nature in the future of mankind.
Of course, my use of words in that preceding sentence is completely ludicrous; the suggestion that ‘Nature’ is disconnected from ‘mankind’. Yet millions of us, to a greater or lesser degree, do behave as if we are the masters of the world.
So let me dip into what has been ‘crossing my desk’ in recent times.
On May 28th, George Monbiot published in The Guardian newspaper an essay entitled A Manifesto for Rewilding the World. (The link takes you to the article on the Monbiot blogsite.) Here’s how that essay opened,
Until modern humans arrived, every continent except Antarctica possessed a megafauna. In the Americas, alongside mastodons, mammoths, four-tusked and spiral-tusked elephants, there was a beaver the size of a black bear: eight feet from nose to tail(1). There were giant bison weighing two tonnes, which carried horns seven feet across(2).
The short-faced bear stood thirteen feet in its hind socks(3). One hypothesis maintains that its astonishing size and shocking armoury of teeth and claws are the hallmarks of a specialist scavenger: it specialised in driving giant lions and sabretooth cats off their prey(4). The Argentine roc (Argentavis magnificens) had a wingspan of 26 feet(5). Sabretooth salmon nine feet long migrated up Pacific coast rivers(6).
During the previous interglacial period, Britain and Europe contained much of the megafauna we now associate with the tropics: forest elephants, rhinos, hippos, lions and hyaenas. The elephants, rhinos and hippos were driven into southern Europe by the ice, then exterminated around 40,000 years ago when modern humans arrived(7,8,9). Lions and hyaenas persisted: lions hunted reindeer across the frozen wastes of Britain until 11,000 years ago(10, 11). The distribution of these animals has little to do with temperature: only where they co-evolved with humans and learnt to fear them did they survive.
I’m not going to reproduce the bulk of the article; just hoped that I have tickled your curiousity sufficient for you to read it in full here. But will just show you how it closed:
Despite the best efforts of governments, farmers and conservationists, nature is already beginning to return. One estimate suggests that two thirds of the previously-forested parts of the US have reforested, as farming and logging have retreated, especially from the eastern half of the country(23). Another proposes that by 2030 farmers on the European Continent (though not in Britain, where no major shift is expected) will vacate around 30 million hectares (75 million acres), roughly the size of Poland(24). While the mesofauna is already beginning to spread back across Europe, land areas of this size could perhaps permit the reintroduction of some of our lost megafauna. Why should Europe not have a Serengeti or two?
Above all, rewilding offers a positive environmentalism. Environmentalists have long known what they are against; now we can explain what we are for. It introduces hope where hope seemed absent. It offers us a chance to replace our silent spring with a raucous summer.
In December, Canadian specialty TV channel Business News Network interviewed me about the climate summit in Copenhagen. My six-minute interview followed a five-minute live report from Copenhagen, about poor countries demanding more money to address climate change and rich countries pleading a lack of resources. Before and after those spots were all kinds of reports on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the price of gold and the loonie, and the implications of some new phone technology.
For me, this brought into sharp focus the inevitable failure of our negotiating efforts on climate change. BNN, like the New York-based Bloomberg channel, is a 24-hour-a-day network focused completely on business. These networks indicate that the economy is our top priority. And at Copenhagen, money dominated the discussions and the outcome.
But where is the 24-hour network dealing with the biosphere? As biological creatures, we depend on clean air, clean water, clean soil, clean energy, and biodiversity for our well-being and survival. Surely protecting those fundamental needs should be our top priority and should dominate our thinking and the way we live. After all, we are animals and our biological dependence on the biosphere for our most basic needs should be obvious.
The economy is a human construct, not a force of nature like entropy, gravity, or the speed of light or our biological makeup. It makes no sense to elevate the economy above the things that keep us alive. But that’s what our prime minister does when he claims we can’t even try to meet the Kyoto targets because that might have a detrimental effect on the economy.
This economic system is built on exploiting raw materials from the biosphere and dumping the waste back into the biosphere. And conventional economics dismisses all the “services” that nature performs to keep the planet habitable for animals like us as “externalities”. As long as economic considerations trump all other factors in our decisions, we will never work our way out of the problems we’ve created.
Nature is our home. Nature provides our most fundamental needs. Nature dictates limits. If we are striving for a truly sustainable future, we have to subordinate our activities to the limits that come from nature. We know how much carbon dioxide can be reabsorbed by all the green things in the oceans and on land, and we know we are exceeding those limits. That’s why carbon is building up in the atmosphere. So our goal is clear. All of humanity must find a way to keep emissions below the limits imposed by the biosphere.
The only equitable course is to determine the acceptable level of emissions on a global per capita basis. Those who fall below the line should be compensated for their small carbon footprint while those who are far above should be assessed accordingly. But the economy must be aligned with the limits imposed by the biosphere, not above them.
Quite clearly, if we continue to turn our backs on Nature, the consequences won’t be long in tapping us on the shoulder.
Trees — by Kristof Nordin May 27, 2013
Imagine the type of world we could see
If instead of saying ‘pray,’ we said, ‘plant a tree’.
With this one little change so much more could be done
To protect all living things found under the sun.
We could ‘plant a tree’ for our troops sent away into war
So when they return they’d come home to find more.
We could ‘plant a tree’ at our churches with our husband or wife
To praise the Creator through a celebration of life.
We could ‘plant a tree’ for the needy and for those with no food
We could even plant in public without seeming rude.
The government would not have to introduce rules,
And most likely we could ‘plant a tree’ at our schools.
If we took it to task to ‘plant trees’ for the poorest,
We would all soon be reaping the wealth of a forest.
We could plant freely with those of all religions and creeds,
The improvement of earth would be based on these deeds.
We could plant with our neighbours, our family, and friends,
And ‘plant a tree’ with our enemies to help make amends.
If we ‘plant a tree’ for the sick to show them we care,
We would also be healing the soil, water, and air.
We could ‘plant a tree’ to observe when two people wed,
And plant one with our kids each night before bed.
Throughout the history of the whole human race
We find respect for the ‘tree’ has always had a place.
The great Ash of the Norse was their tree of the World,
And on a tree in the Garden is where the serpent once curled.
It was in groves of Oaks that the Druid priests wandered,
And under the Bodhi where the great Buddha pondered.
In the Bible it’s clear that we have all that we need:
‘All the trees with their fruits and plants yielding seed’.
Despite all these lessons that the past has taught
Now days, it seems, we cut our trees without thought.
This is confirmed by the Koran, for in it we read:
‘Many are the marvels of earth, yet we pay them no heed’.
We all have a duty, no matter what nation
To perform our part in protecting Creation.
Just think what we’d have if we had picked up a spade
Every time each one of us bowed our heads and prayed.
See you all tomorrow.
The journey towards knowing better who we are.
This may seem like a bit of an ‘odd-ball’ after Celebrating Ben and Ranger on Monday and Celebrating Pharaoh yesterday. Indeed, when I had in mind those two posts, writing about self-awareness was nowhere on my mental horizon. Then along came Shakti Ghosal after Monday’s post who left this comment:
Just came a visiting and was halted by these glorious photographs. Horses embody such great qualities of trust, grace and power don’t they? What is it that makes them such a great friend of Man, I wonder? Specially when the latter species, as we know it (and we should know!), can choose to behave quite contrary to those Equine qualities above….
About Shakti Ghosal
Born in New Delhi, India, Shakti Ghosal is an Engineer and Management Post Graduate from IIM, Bangalore. Apart from Management theory, Shakti remains fascinated with diverse areas ranging from World History, Global trends to Human Psychology & Development.
I was intrigued and starting reading some of Shakti’s posts. That is how I came across The Audacity of Who I am and a day later had been offered permission to republish it.
However, before going on to Shakti’s post let me recap a little from yesterday’s post Celebrating Pharaoh. This section:
The biggest, single reward of having Pharaoh as my friend goes back a few years. Back to my Devon days and the time when Jon Lavin and I used to spend hours talking together. Pharaoh always contentedly asleep in the same room as the two of us. It was Jon who introduced me to Dr. David Hawkins and his Map of Consciousness. It was Jon one day who looking down at the sleeping Pharaoh pointed out that Dr. Hawkins offered evidence that dogs are integrous creatures with a ‘score’ on that Map of between 205 and 210. (Background story is here.)
So this blog, Learning from Dogs, and my attempt to write a book of the same name flow from that awareness of what dogs mean to human consciousness and what Pharaoh means to me. No, more than that! From that mix of Jon, Dr. David Hawkins, and experiencing the power of unconditional love from an animal living with me day-in, day-out, came a journey into my self. Came the self-awareness that allowed me to like who I was, be openly loved by this dog of mine, and be able to love in return. As is said: “You cannot love another until you love yourself.“
I will speak a little more about this but, first, to Shakti’s post.
The Audacity of Who I am
“High above the noise and fear mongering of critics and cynics softly speaks your true self.”
– Mollie Marti, Psychologist, Lawyer & Coach, USA
The other day, I watched the Bollywood movie Queen. In it Rani, a girl from Delhi, travels to Europe after being spurned by her fiancé. The movie then goes on to explore Rani’s ‘World view’ as dictated by her Indian middle class values and how that alters, as her biases and prejudices fall away, as she is confronted by radically different value systems and perspectives. A journey of self discovery in surroundings where she is no longer weighed down by others’ expectations and diktats. As she morphs, she confuses and pisses off many people including herself. Rani emerges from this crucible of experience as a more authentic human being. As she chooses to be ‘who she is for herself and for others’, she symbolises courage as well as resistance. Walking out of the theatre, I could not help but acknowledge how Rani’s awareness and acceptance of ‘who she is for herself and for others’ left her more empowered and in control of her destiny.
Who I am for myself and for others? How many of us are willing to make this query a daily practice as we loosen the constraints imposed by our world-view, let go of who we believe we should show up as and embrace who we really are?
What is it that makes me avoid being who I am for myself and for others? I can see this stemming from my desperation to be admired, liked and looking good. My life experiences have conditioned me to avoid being straightforward and veer towards being diplomatic if I perceive it is the latter which makes me look good. I have also been guilty of the corporate lie. On occasions I have stretched the truth about my company and its services, hidden what could have been embarrassing. On other occasions I have manipulated situations and people. All this to succeed, be admired, look good.
I muse. Have my efforts to gain admiration and look good empowered me to greater heights? Have I succeeded in engaging in my life from a place of worthiness? I remain increasingly unsure.
So if avoiding ‘who I am for myself and for others’ has not worked for me, how could I embrace it? As I think of this, I begin to see what being who I am for myself and for others could mean for me.
It would mean the audacity to show up as the ‘imperfect me’ that I am and the willingness to be vulnerable.
It would mean the audacity to let my hair down and allow myself to truly belong with the folks I choose.
It would mean the audacity to be compassionate and loving even when I hold the fear of not being good enough.
It would mean the audacity to be authentic about my own inauthenticities.
Am I committed to being this audacious?
“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse.’ It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Excerpt from ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ by Margery Williams
In Learning….. Shakti Ghosal
Now Shatki’s post is spot on. But it assumes one thing. That is that each of us has sufficient self-awareness “to show up as the ‘imperfect me’”. Sometimes, as in my case, that ‘imperfect me’ was well-hidden from the self. Stay with me a little longer.
My father died of cancer in 1956. Just 5 days before Christmas, 1956. He was 55 and I had turned 12 just 6 weeks previously. I had completed my first term at the local (Preston Road, Wembley) grammar school.
For many reasons that do not need to be shared here, the effect of my father’s death and my subsequent decline in my school performance, left me with a long-term psychological ‘dysfunction’; namely a feeling that I had been emotionally rejected. But that feeling was deeply hidden from me. In fact, that hidden belief remained with me until 2007 when Jon Lavin brought it to the surface. (Jon is a UKCP accredited therapist and NLP Practitioner).
Reflect on that for just a moment. For the thick end of fifty years, this psychological characteristic remained totally below my consciousness yet, nonetheless, influenced me in very real and tangible ways.
The negative influence was that I was drawn to any woman who offered me love and affection and, therefore, was emotionally unable to understand how good a partner she might or might not be for me. (Jean is my fourth wife!)
The positive influence was that I tried very hard to please others, to avoid their rejection, and had successful careers in selling for IBM UK, starting and building a successful business in the early days of personal computing and, later, when my company was sold in 1986 becoming a freelance journalist and business coach.
So back to Shakti’s essay.
I agree one-hundred-percent with what he says. With the proviso that in certain cases, spending time with a qualified counsellor could be your best investment ever.
How to round this off.
If you have been influenced by any of this then do give yourself time and space to counsel yourself. Let your inner person reach out in peace to your outer person.
If that inner person suggests you could be a happier, more peaceful person then reach out to someone properly qualified to hold your hand as you open up to your inner feelings.
Which is why loving a dog and being loved in return by that beautiful creature means so much. For in that private bond that animals offer us lays the truth.
I can do no better than offer this personal reason why being audacious about who you are is the supreme ‘investment’ of all in yourself.
A few months after Jon Lavin brought my fear of emotional rejection to my conscious surface, I met Jean in Mexico, Christmas 2007. I have never loved a person as I love Jean. I have never been loved by a person as Jean loves me.
Being at peace with who you are is the most important celebration.
Say no more!
What is wisdom?
On May 11th, Patrice Ayme published an essay entitled Science: Progressing Wisdom. I found it deeply engaging. At the same time, I was frustrated because there was a part of me that wanted to know more about “Patrice”.
For some time, I had known that Patrice Ayme was a nom-de-plume and that his, or her, identity was carefully protected. Still that part of me that wanted to relate to the real person, for want of a better description, still wouldn’t quieten down. I offered the following comment:
Patrice, you have demonstrated an amazing breadth of knowledge across your many essays. However, I did wonder if you would be happy to declare your educational experience? As in your specialisation at a degree or Doctorate level (I suspect you do hold a PhD!)? Best wishes, Paul
Patrice’s reply, which you are encouraged to read in full, opened, thus:
You are so funny, Paul! You have an Obsession-Compulsion about “qualifications”.
One of my main ideas, idea #956, is that the authority principle is severely abused. People with Philosophiae Doctor have nothing sacred about them. Goebbels had one (in humanities).
Do you think Goebbels’ authority in humanities is to be “declared”? There were even not just PhDs, but Nobel Laureates, who became Nazis, BEFORE Hitler (who had been sent to spy on them).
No doubt Hitler, a simple caporal, and gifted painter (he lived off it), was super-impressed when he met some of the most educated people in the world, and they were Nazis… Full of PhDs.
One should not confuse the message’s content and her bearer.
This site is about learning to think better. That’s why I go back to the basics.
The idea that, say, those with PhDs is Idionomics, are the only ones qualified to speak about idiocy, is, well, idiotic.
Another reader of Patrice’s essay, gmax, said this, in part:
You have to learn to judge knowledge, not just follow oligarchs like a bleating sheep to learn what’s true and what is not.
That really made me sit up and think! For the first time in my life (I’m 70 later this year), I realised that my own ragged educational experience, as offered yesterday, had left in its wake a personal insecurity over my education, and a consequential weakness in evaluating knowledge with me somehow needing to know the identity of anonymous authors. When Patrice wrote, “Please do not hesitate to make it a post, Paul! I was thinking of it myself, but, as it is, right now, I don’t seem to have the time.“, I couldn’t resist.
Here is my essay.
Wisdom, knowledge and authority.
Abstract: Wisdom requires clarity of knowledge; no more and no less.
On Tuesday evening, Jean and I rented a movie. We watched the film American Hustle.
The film has received rave reviews (here’s a typical one in the Guardian newspaper) and was fun to watch; albeit somewhat confusing for much of the first half. At one point towards the end, the hero of the film, Irving Rosenfeld, reflects that, “People see and hear what they want to believe!“.
That is the challenge about accruing wisdom. How to be analytical and wise in learning new thinking and new ideas. In other words, in acquiring knowledge!
If the subject is simple (well on the surface!) as, for example, the effect of the Earth’s gravitational field then that’s fine and dandy. It’s easy to become wise to the fact that falling off a tall building is likely to kill you.
But take an extremely complex, and highly current matter, that of Planet Earth’s changing climate, and it is extremely difficult for the average person without a scientific background to determine the truth. Really, when I use the phrase “to determine the truth” in the context of this essay I should have written ‘to gain knowledge‘.
To illustrate that, my good Californian friend of more than 35 years, Dan Gomez, is highly sceptical about climate change as a product of man’s activities. Recently, I sent him an email with a link to the NBC News report: American Doomsday: White House Warns of Climate Catastrophes. This was Dan’s email reply:
Think about it, Paul.
1. Consider the source and the timing of these new headlines i.e. the left-thinking Obama regime and current unfavorable political challenges.
2. A deflection from mainline issues confronting us today i.e., jobs, economy, healthcare, upcoming elections, Benghazi and IRS political issues.
3. Major opportunity to raise taxes unilaterally without Congress involved.
4. Major opportunity to redistribute corporate wealth from private sector to public sector.
5. Refocus of competitive, free-market energy sector to controlled renewables managed by a few very wealthy political contributors. A lot of money at stake.
6. Man, is empowered via a political party to “save the world” by changing the Weather. The only problem is, there is no solution, no global will and no participants to make anything significant happen i.e., China, Southeast Asia and another billion people scattered about.
7. Euro Zone and USA have already cut CO2 emissions by over 30% each to no avail. In fact, they say it is getting worse after hundreds of billions of dollars already diverted from private sector to public sector with no results. They are now asking for trillions.
8. Average person is not willing to give up his car, nor spend more for battery power (peel back the onion on the battery manufacturing and recycling industry vis a vis CO2 contributions). Much fewer cars, trains, tractors, jets, etc. to make anything work. Sacrifice begins at home.
9. Cows vent 20 times the CO2 emissions in the form of methane than man-made artifacts. Just saying….
10. Check out the bacteria challenge facing Man. This will help put priorities in order for you.
As always, follow the money and you’ll get your answers…..
I am unable to respond to Dan in an analytical and precise manner. I am not sufficiently knowledgeable to so do. Having an emotional response is fine – but it does not advance my personal wisdom.
On the 6th May, I posted an item that featured a TED Talk by scientist Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist no less. His view is that, “You can’t understand climate change in pieces. It’s the whole, or it’s nothing.” The TED Talk explains how the big picture of climate change illustrates the endlessly complex interactions of small-scale environmental events.
Just a few days ago, Jean and I had the pleasure of a couple of hours at the home of Leon Hunsaker, renowned meteorologist who has claimed that the 1862 Californian flood could happen again.
Leon lives less than 5 minutes from us here in Southern Oregon. I asked him what he thought of climate change and he said that the planet’s atmosphere was like a large chocolate cake and man’s activities were no more than the icing on the cake.
So there you are: a range of opinions about this particular, potentially very important, subject. Although in my own (emotional) mind the weight of evidence is in favour of the argument that man is having a deepening and worsening effect on our planet.
Take, for example, the report issued yesterday about significant melting of Antarctica’s glaciers now unstoppable. (Patrice has just released an informative post on the subject!)
“People see and hear what they want to believe!” comes immediately back to mind. Dan wants to believe that the planet is going through normal cycles of change. I want to believe that mankind can make a difference; for the sake of my children and grandson.
Let me turn to the subject of anonymous authors, my Obsession-Compulsion about qualifications!
I have admitted the flaw in my thinking. Here’s the rationale for my change of opinion.
Just two days ago, Tom Engelhardt published his latest TomDispatch, a guest essay by Glenn Greenwald coinciding with the publication of Greenwald’s new book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Security State. In that essay, Glenn Greenwald says:
On December 1, 2012, I received my first communication from Edward Snowden, although I had no idea at the time that it was from him.
The contact came in the form of an email from someone calling himself Cincinnatus, a reference to Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, the Roman farmer who, in the fifth century BC, was appointed dictator of Rome to defend the city against attack. He is most remembered for what he did after vanquishing Rome’s enemies: he immediately and voluntarily gave up political power and returned to farming life. Hailed as a “model of civic virtue,” Cincinnatus has become a symbol of the use of political power in the public interest and the worth of limiting or even relinquishing individual power for the greater good.
The world now knows what Glenn Greenwald (and Laura Poitras, the documentary filmmaker) knew long before. That Snowden’s anonymity was critically important in the run-up to his knowledge being made widely known.
I was convinced. What is important is not the name and identity of the author of knowledge. What is important is the knowledge itself. No one would deny Snowden’s right to privacy. Indeed, millions of us would opt for email privacy if we fully realised the ease and extent with which our emails, indeed our communications in general, can be intercepted.
Many know that Patrice is a frequent, outspoken voice about the dangers of plutocracy and the slip-sliding away of democracy in the United States. His, or her, personal safety is the highest need of all. Patrice has a perfect right to privacy.
Which leads on to the final, obvious question. If we do not know the identity of the author of knowledge then how can we be certain that the knowledge is valid?
Answer: Through testing!
In the best traditions of research, especially scientific research, testing the validity of a claim is the only certain way of determining the validity of knowledge; of being able to derive wisdom from that knowledge.
Let me give you a clear example.
Commercial aviation is incredibly safe. Many countries operate an equivalent to the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch. That UK AAIB website proclaims:
The purpose of the AAIB is:
To improve aviation safety by determining the causes of air accidents and serious incidents and making safety recommendations intended to prevent recurrence
…It is not to apportion blame or liability.
Keith Conradi, Chief Inspector
Critical to that purpose of improving safety (aka improving knowledge) is looking for trends. Any trends or patterns would be impossible to discover without testing and debate.
Thus what makes aviation safer is no different to what makes all of knowledge reliable: the testing of ideas and of the hypotheses behind those ideas. The identity of the author of those ideas, per se, is irrelevant.
Thus it is clear to me, clear now beyond doubt, that wisdom is the application of knowledge disconnected from the person who is the author of that knowledge. One might see it as a marriage of knowledge and intellect. Nothing more and nothing less!
All aspects of wisdom depend on trust, on the confidence that the knowledge is ‘reliable‘. Reliability gained from debate and testing.
Never forgetting that in the final analysis, as Patrice wrote it:
“Nature is the only authority worth respecting always.”
In every which way that one can imagine, we have to return to the principles of fairness and balance so beautifully demonstrated to man by the breadth of Nature. We have to embrace Nature’s wisdom.
In other words, we have to learn from dogs!
The power of re-finding oneself.
If you do a search on Learning from Dogs for Terry Hershey you will find that his name comes up from time to time. Way back in March, 2011, I published a post announcing a visit by Terry to Payson, AZ where Jean and I were then living. Having had the opportunity to listen to Terry speaking and to meet him in person, I have maintained a subscription to his weekly Sabbath Moment ever since.
Thus it was that last Sunday in came the regular missive from Terry. They are always good but last Sunday’s was spectacularly good. In response to my request to publish the full Sabbath Moment here on Learning from Dogs, there was a prompt reply to the affirmative.
Thus with no further ado, here is Terry’s Sabbath Moment for May 5th, 2014, in full.
May 5, 2014
It seems that in the spiritual world, we do not really find something until we first lose it, ignore it, miss it, long for it, choose, it, and personally find it again–but now on a new level. Richard Rohr
Mystery is at the heart of creativity. That, and surprise. Julia Cameron
I was born fragile, farther said. I was just born that way. He said I was a nervous baby. Just born like that. David Helfgott
I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. Michelangelo
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson began her career as an accomplished viola player. While on tour in Europe (in the late 1980s), her viola was stolen. She could have replaced it. As would be imagined, the theft threw her into a state of feeling lost and uncertain. She stopped playing. After awhile, Lorraine began to work with only instrument she had, her voice.
When asked, Lorraine stresses that her decision to go into singing happened quite naturally. “There were a lot of encouragements along the way, but no individual, earth-shaking event that made me change,” she says. “But, back in 1988, when my viola was stolen, I took that as a sort of omen.” (And although she hasn’t yet replaced her stolen viola, she avows that “the viola is always with me in spirit when I sing.”)
Interestingly, Lorraine is shy about being interviewed; she has no press agent. But when she sings she is known for an ever-widening swath of ardor and awe that she leaves in her wake. An intensity. Her voice–her singing–touches hearts and lives. The irony is that the gift–the artistry–she has given us all, began when life turned left.
Ask any class of kindergarten students, “How many of you are artists?“
How many raise their hands? Every single one of them.
Ask fourth graders. Maybe half.
Seventh graders. A handful.
Seniors in high school. Maybe one.
It’s quite the educational system we have created.
We begin with artists, and we slowly wean it out of them.
I do know this: it is easy to lose sight of that artist that resides inside of each one of us. Whether lost or buried or stuck or forgotten or dismissed or ignored… or “stolen.” (Whenever I lead a retreat, Crayolas are mandatory–because it is an unwritten spiritual principle that you cannot learn about life unless you color. It is curious then, how many–otherwise secure adults–will say, “I’m not very good at coloring.” I will say, “Who said anything about being ‘good’ at it?” Our mind has already morphed from play and wonder to mastery and proficiency.)
When we tag or label or describe ourselves, “artist” is seldom used. Where I was raised, artist was a phase you went through (a dream), you know, to grow out of, to, move on to something more useful and sensible–in order to get a real job.
Yes, of course we are all inner artists, but the cynical part of me tells me that it all sounds too much like a mantra meant to be chanted standing in a circle at a “be all you can be” conference. Sure, it all sounds good.
But I’m not sure what it really means.
In the opening scenes of Shine, we first meet the middle-aged David Helfgott (played by acclaimed Australian stage actor Geoffrey Rush), babbling to himself incessantly and wandering in the rain, in a state of transition. Behind him is the isolated existence as a child piano prodigy whose emotional turmoil led to a nervous breakdown, and a series of stays in various mental institutions. Ahead of him is his eventual reconnection with the world around him, guided by both love and his virtuoso talent that has been long abandoned. We witness the awakening of the artist. In the movie (and in real life), David eventually moves toward that which gives life.
So, what is this artist? It is the place in our spirit that births…
There is no doubt that we hide it. We don’t believe it. Or we judge it as inadequate.
But here’s the deal: The artist in David did not reside only in the talent or prodigy or genius, but in the spontaneity, vitality, innocence, passion and delight. And the artist in Lorraine wasn’t detoured by life’s unkindness.
For me, the tragedy is that (in the name of love) David’s father (Peter) squeezes the artist out of the prodigy. But in truth, it doesn’t always require a pathological “love” to hide or extinguish the light.
In the movie rendition, there is a scene that stops my heart. David and his father are walking home after a competition. David has placed second.
(In his father’s eyes, anything other that first is a failure.) The father is seething, and there is no hiding his disgust. David has lived his entire life absorbing his father’s pathology, doing his very best to make his Daddy happy. The father walks ahead, hurried, his spirit heavy. David follows. On the sidewalk, in chalk, there is a hopscotch pattern.The camera follows from behind, and we see young David unconsciously, intuitively, childlike, hopping and skipping and jumping – the joy and the light (and the artistry) of his childhood still alive.
I don’t want to lose sight of that childlike artistry inside of me. I’m home for a week or so, and the garden is abounding and teeming with life and color and enchantment. The peony buds profligate, the bearded iris blooms beguiling, the columbine exquisite. The branches of the Japanese Maple, heavy with spring rain, deferentially bow. I once asked my analyst why I was in therapy. He told me it would make me a better gardener. Gardening can be strong medicine–an elixir that nurtures and shapes the soul. For that reason, it is a tonic seldom taken straight with no ice. Gardening has way of seeping into your soul, and one day you find yourself, in the words of poet May Sarton, spending the first half hour of the morning “enjoying the air and watching for miracles,” the joy and the light still alive.
I dip my pen in the blackest ink, because I’m not afraid of falling
into my inkpot. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Hope you all enjoyed this just as much as I did!
But I can’t close without mentioning something that struck me the very first time I read the essay. It is this.
That list that describes artistry: creativity, enchantment, imagination, play, risk and wonder. It’s not a million miles from describing the way our younger dogs behave when we take them for a walk around the property most days after lunch.
Dogs playing without a care in the world!
Once again, Terry’s website is here.
Nature imposes herself on us humans in absolute terms.
I do not believe in any form of life after death. Jean is uncertain. Many good people do believe in some form of spiritual afterlife.
However, one thing is sure. Our living mind and body will die.
These few words are an introduction to the first essay under the broad title of The Natural order. On the 23rd April I introduced the idea of writing a regular essay “about the past, present and future of man’s relationship with Nature.“
Thus it did seem entirely appropriate to ‘kick off’ the essays with reflections about life and death.
The circle of life and death
Posted on April 27, 2014 |
Nature reminds me life and death is a circle.
I visit a house, the noise of hungry little birds emanating from a nest hidden in the roof, busy parents flying in and out feeding their brood. Less than a week before summer (1st May) I encounter life all about me, like a vast fountain of creativity, as plant and animal erupt into growth and creation. I feel a sense of joy at the life all about me, like dipping my feet in crystal clear spring waters.
Amongst this carnival of life a reminder that with life there is also death. Helix our cat is an effective hunter, a blue tit is found dead upon the ground. I feel no sadness for the death, it is a natural part of the cycle of nature, my animistic viewpoint is of a small spirit returning to the source, and from then renewing. No anger for Helix, since this is the nature of cats, despite being fed, a cat must follow the primal instinct of its nature to hunt. I carry the dead blue tit to an overgrown spot of trees and grass, here I place the blue tit to decay and thus become part of the life of plant and animal of that place, such is the circle of life and death.
There can’t be a single person on this planet who does not understand that our human life is finite.
Life span of early man: Until fairly recently, little information existed about how long prehistoric people lived. Too few fossilized human remains made it tough for historians to estimate the demographics of any population. Anthropology professors Rachel Caspari and Sang-Hee Lee chose instead to analyze the relative ages of skeletons found in archeological digs in eastern and southern Africa, Europe, and elsewhere. Comparing the proportion of those who died young, with those who died at an older age, the team concluded that longevity only began to significantly increase (that is, past the age of 30 or so) about 30,000 years ago – quite late in the span of human evolution.
In an article published in 2011 in Scientific American, Caspari calls the shift the “evolution of grandparents”, as it marks the first time in human history that three generations might have co-existed. ( Source: Longevity Throughout History.)
Thus given that living much past the age of thirty years is a relatively recent experience, it baffles me beyond comprehension that we, as in mankind, have become so short-sighted about reinvesting in the one and only natural planet that sustains us.
Beautifully expressed in another wonderful essay from John Hurlburt.
Notes on the Human Dilemma
The metanexus of Faith, Nature and Science form an integral vision of the reality in which we exist. We are components of Creation living in an emerging universe. As consciously aware life forms we are each and all responsible to the Nature of God in a steadily emerging universe. Change is both constant and inevitable. Species that don’t adapt, do not survive.
Our human problems are obvious.
The essential growth of human conscious awareness remains questionable.
There is a blatant disregard for Nature. The rate of Natural disasters is increasing everywhere on Earth
Civil unrest is bordering on a second Civil War and is already in that state in many other nations of the world.
Imminent economic collapse remains probable as long our world economy is based on a foundation that has been leveraged at least twenty-five times above any realistic material foundation on Earth.
Are we a moral species?
A steady increase in natural disasters worldwide is inevitable until we change in response to Nature’s warnings or become extinct. The collapse of morality threatens the existence of global civilization.
The virtual extinction of the human race in its present state is all but assured within the next century unless we adapt to the Reality we presently blithely ignore or chose to vilify.
We still have a choice.
Our alternative to what has been euphemistically referred to as “new reality” is the process of education, reformation and transformation on a personal level. The objectives are an obvious need to adapt to constant natural change and create a species renaissance in harmony with the reality of God, Nature and Science.
There is clearly a need for a global economy that is based on our primal need for clean air, clean water, clean food and clean energy. We need to maintain our balance through gratitude for the blessings of the life we share and equal justice for all. We need to remember that we are not in charge of anything except our responsibilities to God, Nature and each other.
Under these simple guidelines, a healthy, growing future remains possible as we prepare to migrate from our home planet and relieve the consumptive consequences of an exponentially growing and ravenous demographic ruled by the artificial symbol of Money.
Sound impossible? Au contraire…
The world is being forced to re-evaluate its economic premises. Here are a few proven solutions to help create a naturally invigorated economy.
We can cut air pollution dramatically overnight by converting commercial diesel engines to far more cost-effective bio-fuels without a single change to the diesel mechanisms.
Bio-diesel distillation plants can filter and recycle the clean water we need to live.
We are capable of growing our own food with recycled organic fertilizers.
We have begun the process of harnessing the limitless clean renewable energy provided by the sun, the wind and hydraulic power.
Electric cars that may be fueled by solar energy are winning world class races.
The list of what we are capable of doing is only limited by our imaginations.
The questions to ask ourselves are:
Are we at the beginning of a new world or at the end of an old world?
“Are we a part of the problem or part of a realistic solution?”
“What will be the harvest of our lives?”
an old lamplighter
Back to the basics of life.
Regular readers of Learning from Dogs will recall that just under a week ago I published an essay under the title of A bedtime story for mankind. The post centred around an essay from Patrice Ayme. Patrice’s essay could be summarised as follows: “At the present rate of greenhouse gases emissions, within nine years, massively lethal climate and oceanic changes are guaranteed.“
Then just last Sunday, Patrice published a second essay reinforcing that first one. The subsequent essay was called Ten Years to Catastrophe. I was minded to republish that but upon reflection thought that there was a better option. That was to explore the deep, core questions that both of Patrice’s essays raised in my mind and, presumably, must be raised in the minds of countless thousands of others. Questions along the lines of a comment I submitted to that subsequent post from Patrice.
Do you have an idea, even a sense, of when global leaders, elected Governments, the ‘movers and shakers’ in societies, will truly embrace the global catastrophe that is heading our way?
And a supplementary question: What would be the indicators that Governments were acknowledging the task ahead?
Frankly, they weren’t especially good questions but they were an attempt by me to open up a debate on whether or not this is the “beginning of the end” of life for us humans. Central to what was going through my mind was the core question of how did it all go wrong?
On Monday evening, I rang John Hurlburt, a close friend of Jean and me from our Payson, Arizona days and kicked around those questions . It was a most enlightening conversation. John is an active founder member of Transition Town Payson and Payson recently welcomed the Great March for Climate Action in their walk from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. (An essay on that event coming soon.)
Anyway, from out of that conversation with John came the idea of a series of essays here on Learning from Dogs about the past, present and future of man’s relationship with Nature. The aim is to offer an essay on a weekly basis but we’ll see how it goes. Wherever possible, I will use the essays and posts from other bloggers that reinforce the vision. As always, your feedback in the form of ‘Likes’ or comments will reflect on the value of the essays to you.
After John and I finished the call, he sent me an email with what could be best described as his vision for these essays. Here is that email [my emphasis].
Everything fits together. Otherwise, we’d simply be disassociated atoms.
Human beings are a consciously aware component of Nature. We have a DNA-level directive to survive as a species and as individual members of a species …. in that order!
We are consciously aware components of the conscious interaction between energy and matter in a predominently smoothly emerging cyclic universe with departures from time to time into pockets of chaos.
We disconnect from reality when we become self-centered, often during the various stages of our lives. When we are blessed we continue to live and learn.
Issues of ideology, rational thought, economics, politics, religion, history and science become insignificant in comparison to the whelming power of Nature.
Such is life. It comes with the territory. Spirituality, Nature and Science describe the metanexus in which we live.
Maintain an even strain,
an old lamplighter
Ref: Episcopal “Catechism of Creation”
Ideas, feedback and comments, as always, hugely welcomed.